Question for Scott?


SatelliteGuys Pro
Original poster

As much as I don't trust the guys at DISH, have you heard anything recently from them about the 721 software.

What we got is obviously not what you have, and is buggier than ever. It is a downgrade as far as I am concerned.

Any word on whether they plan to release anything soon (like your version of the software)?

I do believe the software I have is different then the software which was sent out, after all I have things like the screen saver which you guys do not seem to have.

I have not heard from Dish in any way shape or form about the 721 since I reported that the 29 min pad was done intentionally.

I really wish I had an answer for you guys on this.
So what's the point of beta testing for 9 months if you are not gonna send down the version that your testers are actually using?

What is puzzling to me is that Charlie is obviously using most of these receivers and is no doubt experiencing many of the problems at home that people have described here. So why doesn't he get angry about it and tell his software engineers to get it right once and for all or look for a job elsewhere? It's not like it's so hard to find replacements. In this terrible IT market, it's really easy to find good people willing to work for crumbs because they haven't had a job in 2 years. He is losing existing customers left and right, as well as the reputation of his company because of things like the Dishplayer, 501 (although it is much more stable now, but used to be just terrible in the first year or so), and the 721

First off developers working on embedded devices would require a skill set different than what an IT person would have. On the Beta note, changes always occur during the Beta process with all software companies. Things can be ripped out if they get a lot of reports on problems or for other reasons that we might not be privey about.

There have been at least two occassions that I remember where a major OS made a change at the last minute that turned into a critical 1 bug. Sometimes a change is made that seems safe and corrects a issue. It is late in the Beta cycle so it get limited exposure and then it comes back to bit them. This is the nature of software and Dish is not the only guilty here. I have worked as a Software Engineer for 15+ years with major companies so I have seen this happen first hand.

Also, You might be under the impression that the goal of a Beta (To flush out the bugs) is always acheived. This is not the case... Depending on the Beta mix of people, their devotion, and how well it is run a Beta can be successful or not lead to any fruit.

So the point of Beta Testing is to flush the bugs out.. And in this case maybe the flushed out 20 and added 10. I am not sure what happend with 115 since I don't have any info to go on and I would not quickly jump to the conclusion that the engineers are incompetent. There are a lot of steps to making good quality software and it is not always the engineers fault.

My 2 cents for what it is worth
As I see it, the 721 has been out for over a year. Scott has a software version that works. I'd find it hard to believe that a user like Scott wouldn't have put a 721 through a thourough test. The amount of bugs and issues on a box costing nearly 5 times that of it's competitor is ridiculous. I understand you can't compare a 721 to a D* Tivo, but for the most part, we're talking about a 2 tuner PVR.

If not the software engineers, who do you blame?
Well first off, Scott is a sample size of one. :) Sorry Scott no offense here. To basically measure the stability of software version based off of Scott's experience in my opinion is limited and would not fully reflect the true conditions of the software. There are things like cabling, signal issues, install conditions that all could effect the perception of a product's stability.

If just having Scott test the product assured them of a stable 721, I think they would have a Beta test team of 1 and I am sure that is not the case. Scotts opinion, though most welcomed, is only one sample of the product and I am sure does not provide a full picture of the product in regards to bugs and stability.

As far as the reliability compared to D*Tivo and other Dual tuner PVRs, I don't know of any studies that have shown this to be the case. There are a number of people that claim this as fact, but at this point it is all based on the experiences people have had on this board. I am not saying it is not true, just that no verification has been done to prove this statement.

Also, my understanding is there is a larger number of Dish PVRs in the market than Tivos? If you look at the traffic on the Dish PVR forum versus the DirectTV there is a lot more traffic. This could be though of as more problems or more people using the devices. My guess is it is a little bit of both. Anyway, that could also lead to the perception that Dish's PVRs are so much buggier than TIVOs. Before the TIVO flames begin, I have not done any comparison myself so I would not be willing to argue either point. It is just an observation on my behalf.

No back to who do you blame, blame goes on to Dish themselves as a company. That includes the person running the Beta and Management. In most companies, the decision to release is not made by engineering. Also some blame could be due to non-responsive Beta testers ( Not you Scott) or the fact that the Beta testers are very experienced so they don't do things the way an average person would. A bad Beta mix can result in these type of issues too. Could be a last minute fix resulted in the problem. It is hard to say since non of us work at Dish, but the blanket Dish Engineer's suck is most likely not correct.
Well said WeeJavaDude.

Here is another data point. My last 721 had hardware issues and 2 days after the L1.15 release I got a replacement unit. Since the replacement and L1.15 I have not had ANY stability issues. As a matter of fact I have not rebooted the unit once. With my old unit I would have to reboot it at least twice a week. The new unit that they sent me was a new unit not refurb (don't know why they did this but am glad they did). I don't know if the stability is because of the new unit or the firmware update but I love it now. There could potentially be subtle changes in the heardware (different components) in different units. There are a lot of variables that can arise that can effect embedded software that without a very large base of users is very difficult to uncover.

Calling the engineers idiots I don't think is fair, now calling the company and their development practices less than stellar I believe is fair.

You have to realize that in a software/firmware development organization engineers don't have much say about what gets released and when or even to a large extent how buggy something is. An individual engineer is usually only responsible for a small part of a system. Architects/Leads are responsible for putting the system together and ensuring what the individual engineers have developed conforms to some design and provides the proper functionality as well as finding unforseen iteractions between individual engineers work. When it is all put together then a quality organization is typically responsible for ensuring the quality of the product. Obviously E*'s quality organization needs some revamping because they obviously aren't finding as many defects as they should...or are they. After defects are found by a quality organization there is usually a review process to determine which bugs will get fixed and which won't, that process takes into account lots of factors including how long would it take to fix it, how many customers will potentially be effected, how much will it cost to fix, and how many engineers will it require to fix it, among other factors. They are in the end running a business (and because of us customers a pretty successful one) and they are accountable to share holders.

I have been in the business for a long time (no I don't work for Dish) and what I described above is typical of organizations that I have worked for, and am assuming at least part of this is the way dish operates also.

Having said all that I am thinking about jumping ship to DirectTV when the DirectTivo HD comes out, this is for 2 reasons.
1. Superdish is to big! I want HD but I don't want a dish that big hanging off my house. (perspective: superdish 36" wide, DirecTv 3 LNB dish 24" wide).
2. I want a new customer discount when I buy DVR HD equipment.

The stability is not a driving factor for me now, at least for now.

Sorry about the long message.

I would agree. You described the process exactly as my experience has been and organizations also tend to skimp in certain areas. Hard to say where in Dish the issue is, but I am sure something is broken in the process and could be improved.

As a side note, in the development world there is a triangle that has features, resources, and development time. If you change one, then one of the other sides must change.

1) Increase features, Either have to increase resources or increase time to market. features can be bug fixes in this case.
2) Decrease resources. Start yanking out features or increase time to market.
3) Want something faster, you have to increase resources or remove features..

Funny thing is.... Most of my experience shows that company seem to forget this simple triangle when planning releases and that is why so may products are late.

If people are interested in why software is late and has more bugs than it should I suggest reading the "Mythical man month". It should provide some interesting insight.
As a side note, in the development world there is a triangle that has features, resources, and development time. If you change one, then one of the other sides must change.

You can have it 1) Good, 2) Fast, 3) Cheap. Pick any two.

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